Pros: Well-produced merging of rap, techno, R&B and house music.
Cons: Lyrical content what you'd expect from Black Eyed Peas front-man.
Bottom Line: Great party CD full of lyrics meant to be sung along with, not thought about.
Over the last few years, will.i.am has aimed for a difficult balance — maintaining artistic credibility while churning out some of the crassest, lowest-common-denominator hits in pop music.
The front man and producer of the Black Eyed Peas, he’s responsible for My Humps, Fergalicious and Let's Get Retarded. Yet he has also produced critically-praised songs for Nas, the Game and Sergio Mendes. This creative flexibility is on full display on his solo album Songs About Girls.
The inane-sounding title belies a surprisingly coherent concept album. It follows the painful dissolution of a long-term relationship — from denial (She's A Star) to pleading (One More Chance) to anger (Fantastic) and finally acceptance. There is some BEP-esque absurdity, with one song comparing a girl's butt to a Donque.
Free from the compromise inherent in the group dynamic, Songs About Girls is the unleashing of his creative id. He merges hip-hop, house, techno and R&B for a distinct sound that feels both futuristic and nostalgic. Conventional song structure is abandoned — raps merge abruptly into melodies, choruses flow on endlessly and beats meander for minutes on end.
But his decision to forgo lyrical structure was probably unavoidable. While he remains nominally a rapper, without the rest of the Peas, his lyrical ability is often so deficient it's distracting. Lead single I Got It From My Mama features gems like "If the girl real pretty, nine times out of 10, she pretty like her mama / And if her mama real ugly, I guarantee ya she goin be ugly like her mama."
At his best he makes irresistibly catchy music like Heartbreaker, the album's high point. There’s no denying his talent; any producer who can make Fergie a superstar is not someone to be taken lightly.